A collective of artists in the music industry, including Mick Jagger and Peter Gabriel, are hoping to honor George Floyd with an effort titled "The Show Must Be Paused," a day for musicians (and their fans) to lean into the fight against police brutality and racial injustice on June 2. Despite the efforts of Black music executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, who co-created the initiative, activists are concerned the project might be used as a tool to suppress Black voices.
The execs originally called for folks to “take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community.”
“The music industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. An industry that has profited predominately from Black art,” says a statement about the initiative on TheShowMustBePaused.com. “Our mission is to hold the industry at large, including major corporations + their partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles and success of Black people accountable.”
The statement also said that a plan of action will be released as a result of the initiative.
But what initially began as a timeout for the music industry is what activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham is calling "digital suppression" of Black voices.
At some point, things either became lost in translation or the initiative was intentionally co-opted.
Social media users began participating in "Blackout Tuesday" and sharing a visual of an empty black square on Tuesday.
Many folks believed they were showing solidarity with the protests taking place throughout the globe advocating for Black lives. But as the Verge pointed out, the use of the #BLM and #BlackLivesMatter hashtags in these posts has only flooded the hashtags' feeds with posts that suppress critical information, such as incidents of police violence and resources from activists and organizers, in such a vital time.
Additionally, encouraging silence, which was only supposed to take place throughout the music industry, is the opposite of what needs to be taking place as the president threatens to deploy the National Guard upon cities experiencing uprisings.
Brittany Packnett Cunningham, an activist and co-host of Pod Save The People, said in an Instagram video Tuesday morning that she couldn’t trace where the idea to use blacked-out images to represent the music industry initiative originated.
“My belief is that #TheShowMustBePaused, which was for the music industry only, got misunderstood or coopted to create digital protest suppression,” her post’s caption read. “IF YOU ARE BLACK, WE HAVE BEEN SILENCED FOR LONG ENOUGH. POST YOUR CONTENT, EVEN IF YOU STILL POST YOUR BLACKED OUT PICTURE. THE GOOD, THE JOYFUL, ORGANIZING INFORMATION-ALL OF THE FULLNESS OF BLACK LIFE."
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I have asked multiple organizers around the country who’ve been doing this for a long time and NO ONE knows anything about #BlackoutTuesday. NONE of us organized this. If I am wrong, I will pull this post down and correct it! My belief is that #TheShowMustBePaused, which was for the MUSIC industry only, got misunderstood OR coopted to create digital protest suppression. IF YOU ARE BLACK, WE HAVE BEEN SILENCED FOR LONG ENOUGH. POST YOUR CONTENT, EVEN IF YOU STILL POST YOUR BLACKED OUT PICTURE. THE GOOD, THE JOYFUL, ORGANIZING INFORMATION-ALL OF THE FULLNESS OF BLACK LIFE. My next post will include ways NON-BLACK people can #AmplifyMelinatedVoices and trick the algorithm to make sure BLACK voices-which need to be heard MOST-are heard. ❤️✊????
Cunningham said she was fearful that the message Agyemang and Thomas are hoping to use to inspire change might be misappropriated for other means.
"We saw this kind of digital suppression in the election space," she said. "We saw it in 2016. We saw it in 2018 with false information being sent out to our communities and stopping people from saying and doing the things that matter the most."
Cunningham said the music execs who created the initiative did so as a way for non-Black people to stop posting their regular content and uplift Black art for a week.
"Do not use the hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter," she said in reference to Tuesday's event. "Because what it does is when you click on the hashtag, everything in there is black. So suddenly, all the content, all of the art, all of the education, all of the announcement of protests and events, all of those are suddenly buried, which, again, makes it feels like someone is doing this on purpose."
Other activists joined in the conversation and voiced their beliefs that something foul might be behind the miscommunication.
"It is heartbreaking to see America tearing itself apart again over issues of race," the Rolling Stones singer said Monday. "Tomorrow I stand with my fellow artists and observe Blackout Tuesday to combat racial discrimination and social injustice."
— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) June 1, 2020
Meanwhile, Spotify will add a silent track to some playlists and podcasts on Blackout Tuesday.
"Select participating playlists and podcasts will include an 8-minute, 46-second track of silence as a solemn acknowledgment for the length of time that George Floyd was suffocated," the company said in a blog post.